Public Speaking Course:
Stage Fright Strategies
Stage fright is not necessarily that bad, it can be good for you and might just make you
My public speaking course teaches that it is more vital that you
be ready to speak in public, before you actually need to learn
how to speak in public.
You must learn to control your stage fright if you ever want to be good at presenting. Actually,
the term stage fright isn't the most
accurate description for the extreme nervousness that occurs when
considering getting up in front of people. In fact, most of the fear
occurs before you step out on to the stage. Once you're out there, it usually goes
In my public speaking course I try to show stage fright in a positive
Think of fear as your friend. It makes your reflexes sharper. It heightens your
energy, adds a sparkle to your eye, and color to your cheeks. When you are nervous about speaking, you are more conscious of your
posture and breathing. With all those good side effects you will actually
look healthier and more physically attractive.
When making public performances, many of the top performers in the
world still get stage fright so don't feel alone. Stage fright may
come and go, but it usually does not disappear permanently.
You must concentrate on getting the feeling out in the open, into perspective
and under control. That too is part of preparation from your
public speaking course.
Remember no one has ever died from stage fright or speaking in front
maybe a few who were stoned for telling the truth too boldly).
But, according to surveys, most people would rather die than speak
in public. If that sounds like you, try out some of the strategies in
this section to help get your stage fright under control. Realize that you may
never completely overcome stage fright, but you can learn to control
Some Symptoms of Stage Fright
- Dry mouth.
- Tight throat.
- Sweaty hands.
- Cold hands.
- Shaky hands.
- Shake my hand?
- Give me a hand...? (Oops, I couldn't resist).
- Fast pulse.
- Shaky knees.
- Trembling lips.
Any out-of-the-ordinary, outward or inward, occurring before or
during the beginning of a public speaking engagement. (Wow! What a dry mouthful! My lips are trembling
just trying to say it at a fast pace without shaking...).
Not everyone reacts the same and there is no universal fix for everyone.
Don't try to use all these fixes at once, just pick out items from this
list and try them out until you find one that works for you. Some strategies from my
public speaking course to help
reduce stage fright are:
- Visualization strategies that can be used anytime
- Concentrate on how good you are at
speaking in public.
- Pretend you are just chatting with a group of friends.
- Close your eyes and imagine the audience listening, laughing, and applauding.
- Remember happy moments from your past presentations.
- Think about your love for and desire to help the audience.
- Picture the audience in their underwear (OK, that's just to get you
to lighten up, but could create "toxic shock"!) .
Strategies in advance of program.
- Be extremely well prepared.
- Join or start a Toastmasters club for extra practice.
- Get individual or group public speaking coaching. (Remember professionals
- Listen to music.
- Read a poem.
- Get in shape. Exercise. Exercise your heart, body, and soul. I don't
know why it helps stage fright, but it does.
- Anticipate hard and easy questions.
- Organize your speaking notes. (Advance preparation...)
- Absolutely memorize your opening statement so you can recite it on autopilot
if you have to. (Advance preparation...)
- Practice, practice, practice. (This could be the daily slogan from my
public speaking course you will learn, Boy Scout's is "Do a Good Deed
- Especially practice bits (or sections of your speech) so you can spit
out a few minutes of your program no matter how nervous you are.
Strategies just before the program.
(Remember Stage fright usually goes away after you start speaking. The tricky
time is before you start.)
- Be in the room at least an hour early if possible to triple check
the public address system and everything else on your checklist.
(That contributes to your assurance that nothing is going to jump up
and "bite you" or embarrass you in front of your audience.)
- You can also schmooze with participants arriving early.
(That allows you to "connect" and gather intelligence about
the current state of mind of the people on whose mind you will be "painting".)
- Notice your surroundings and think about the things around you.
(Knowing the environment allows
you to control it, and being in control reduces the potential for stage
- Concentrate on searching for current things that are
happening at the event that you can mention during your speech.
- Get into conversation with people near you. Be very intent on what
they are saying.
(Connect with the audience members, one by one, let them know you care
about each of them.)
- Yawn to relax your throat.
(If you are a Yankee, "drawl" if you are Southern.)
- Draw sketches of a new car you would like to have.
(or of a NASCAR you want to win if you are Southern...)
- Look at your notes.
- Put pictures of your kids/grandkids, dog, etc., in your notes. ("Don't
worry, be happy!")
- Build a cushion of time in the day so you are not rushed. (Being
late can cause a lot of stress which can lead to stage fright.)
- But do not schedule too much time. You don't want to have extra
time to worry.
- If your legs are trembling, lean on a table, sit down, or shift
(Maybe even dance a step or two, practice "3 Steps, mister..."
for your presentation skills on stage movements.)
- Take a quick walk. (Walk the Talk, or talk while you walk, practice,
practice, practice, and exercise, exercise, exercise.)
- Take quick drinks of tepid water.
- Don't drink alcohol or coffee or tea with caffeine.
- Double check your A/V equipment including the public address system,
- Concentrate on your speaking ideas. (Remember your PaPa said, "Think
before you speak." ?)
- Hide speaking notes around the stage area so you know you have a
backup if you happen to draw a blank.
- Concentrate on your audience.
- Listen to music ("Music can sooth the soul and tame the angry
- Read a poem. ("Be still my heart...").
- Do isometric exercises that tighten and release muscles.
- Shake hands and smile with attendees before the program. (Connect
with people, show that you care.)
- Say something to someone to make sure your voice is ready to go.
- Go somewhere private and warm up your voice, muscles, etc.
- Use eye contact.
- Go to a mirror and check out how you look.
- Breathe deeply, evenly, and slowly for several minutes.
- Don't eat if you don't want to and never take tranquilizers or other
(You may think you will do better if you eat, or take a drug, but you
will probably do worse and not know it.)
Strategies to use when your public speaking program begins
You plan ahead to control the environment, the experience of the audience,
and most importantly, to control yourself.